First United Methodist Church
Quimby Pipe Organs Inc.
By Chris Emerson and Daniel Sliger
First United Methodist Church of Athens, Georgia, is home to the newest instrument by Quimby Pipe Organs Inc. of Warrensburg, Missouri. The four-manual, 68-rank Opus 77 was created through the collaboration of Michael Quimby, owner and tonal director; T. Daniel Hancock, former company president; James F. Mellichamp, president and professor of music, Piedmont College, Athens, Georgia, consultant; Stephen Mitchell, director of music; and Janis Maxwell, organist. The organ is designed primarily to lead worship and then to serve a variety of musical and liturgical functions. It is not intended to copy any particular school or period of organbuilding, but to embrace the needs of the church and to provide an instrument that not only serves for recitals but can also be used in the wide variety of musical genres found in the worship practices of the 21st century.
Tonally, the instrument is unique in a number of ways. First, it has four enclosed divisions. Second, the 32′ and 16′ Pedal reed stops and all other manual 16′ reeds are full length. Third, the instrument contains certain features of the symphonic style of organ that was sought after in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Michael Quimby and his team have played a leading role in reviving and developing this style of building over the last two decades. Fourth, departing from the symphonic tradition, each division of the instrument, excluding the Solo, contains a completely developed diapason chorus. This has proven to increase the versatility of the instrument in Classical, Romantic, and symphonic styles of music. One thing that sets these diapason chorus ranks apart is the unusual use of substantially thick metal, using antimony and trace elements for stability. Over the last 25 years we have discovered that using thicker metal allows the pipework to be voiced to its full potential, providing stability in pipe speech and achieving the optimum in harmonic development. Another feature is the chorus of trumpets and orchestral reeds, including the Tuba, French Horn, Oboe, English Horn, and Corno di Bassetto, all voiced by our head reed voicer, Eric Johnson. Of particular interest are two contrasting solo reeds, the Tuba in the Solo division and the Hooded Trumpet in the Antiphonal division, voiced on 20” and 10” wind pressure respectively.
Mechanically, our instruments feature the use of our version of the Blackinton slider windchest, distinguished by a pneumatic pallet design and absence of slider seals, allowing for the flue pipes in each division to speak without the explosive attack experienced by individual valves, since each note shares a common note channel with the other ranks. The reed ranks, Solo, Pedal, and offset pipes are on electropneumatic pouch-style windchests.
As with most instruments, the console is seen as the crown jewel of the installation. Made of solid mahogany, in the Aeolian-Skinner style, with walnut drawknob jambs, coupler rails, and accents, the console incorporates the Virtuoso control system, provided by Integrated Organ Technologies of Alpharetta, Georgia. The solid mahogany case, designed by T. Daniel Hancock and built by Southern Elegance Custom Cabinetry of Crawford, Georgia, incorporates design features from both the existing grille work and the sanctuary, achieving an aesthetically elegant display. Located in the chancel facade are notes 1–21 of the Great 16′ Double Open Diapason and notes 1–12 of the Pedal 8′ Octave.
We wish to thank all of those at First Methodist who made our stay in Athens an enjoyable one: Chuck Hodges, senior pastor; Dave Walton, business administrator; Bob Winstead, executive director of administration and project manager; Steven Mitchell and Janice Maxwell of the music staff; and all those in the congregation who showed us the love of Christ by supplying us with treats and meals throughout the installation.
Quimby Pipe Organs Inc.
Samantha Koch Hancock
T. Daniel Hancock
Chris Emerson (project lead) is a pipe maker, tuner/technician, and head of the service department at Quimby Pipe Organs. He has been with the company for more than 30 years, having served in nearly every area since 1990.
Dan Sliger (project lead) was shop manager for the American Organ Institute at the University of Oklahoma from 2011 to 2016. He came to the organbuilding industry during his last year of college as a student employee of the AOI with a longtime interest in woodworking. His experiences include reservoir and chest construction as well as drafting and design. Dan is a member of the American Institute of Organ Builders and has been with the Quimby firm since 2016.